Suspense and the Adirondacks – that seems to be the winning formula for Jenny Milchman. It has landed her a movie deal for her third novel, As Night Falls, (Ballantine) which is slated to start shooting this fall, and it is the setting once again for her upcoming fifth novel, Twelve Miles from Mercy, targeted for next spring.
Jenny and I met in 2014, just moments before her name was announced as the winner of the Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award for her debut novel Cover of Snow. Her works pit courageous women against the natural elements, their partners and themselves. In her most recent novel, Wicked River, a newly married couple on an Adirondack wilderness honeymoon face danger in every stroke of their canoe paddle, and discover more about themselves and each other than they ever wanted to know.
As a thriller writer myself about to launch my debut novel The Midnight Call, it has been inspiring and, well, thrilling, tracking the success of my friend. I recently had the chance to catch up with her and chat about her latest projects.
Jode Millman: At what stage is the movie version of As Night Falls?
Jenny Milchman: It’s in pre-production now. They’re scouting locations, finalizing the financing and trying to lock down talent. If all goes well, they hope to start shooting this fall. But I’ll believe it when they’re selling M&Ms and I can buy my ticket.
What was the key to this book finding its way to the screen?
I mentioned to an author and screenwriter friend Matthew Quinn Martin at Thrillerfest [the industry show of the International Thriller Writers] that I’d always thought As Night Falls would make a great movie. It takes place in one night in one location and has a very small group of people. It’s one family, one story, one night. And Matthew was intrigued.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those simplified elements make some of the production problems disappear, especially when you don’t have to fly through the sky and use CGI. He said that’s a dream for a Hollywood independent film.
Tell us about the casting.
I can’t even talk about it because I know who they have tentatively cast for the lead — and she’s absolutely perfect. I had the chance to meet her when Matthew and the director invited me to a show of hers. It’s somebody I never would have pictured. And yet when I met her, I remarked, “Oh my gosh. You’re Sandy. That’s amazing. How did they find you?”
George R.R. Martin has said his books are like his children, but when he sold his novels to television, he let them go without regret. How do you feel?
Honestly, making a film of my novel wasn’t something I’d ever thought about, aside from the vague notion that my books would make good movies. Matthew’s production team took my novel and turned it into a dream. I’m happy with whatever they do.
Your film deal is proof positive that you never know where opportunity is going to present itself.
It never would have happened without my casual conversation with Matthew. It goes back to knocking on every door in this crazy book business. I have great film agents, but until then I hadn’t had any luck. And then I was just talking to a friend and decided that I’m going to make my plug.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. Even before I could write, I would dictate stories to my mom and she would write them down.
Yet you were a psychotherapist for 10 years. How did you combine your two interests?
I specialized in treating children. I was seeing this adorable five-year-old girl whose mom brought her in to see me because she had just killed the family pet. The case was almost as if life was a suspense novel. I had to figure out her problem and had my Nancy Drew sleuthing hat on. I got the writing bug at that point because the experience was exactly like a suspense novel. You take a scary premise, present it to a character and then force the character to figure it out.
Tell us about the novel you’re working on.
It is coming out next spring, so the timing gave me a bit of a writing break. I’ve turned my attention back to my seventh unpublished novel, which like the prior six, was stowed away in the cyber drawer. Now, after all this time, I can see what’s wrong with it and I’m going to give it another shot. And it’s going to be a totally different book.
For all of my fans out there, it’s a Wedeskyull novel set in the Adirondacks, and the heroine, Julie, has reason to flee home. She’s looking for a new start and answers an ad to teach at a remote one-room schoolhouse in Maine. Then, things don’t go as planned – of course.
ABOUT JENNY MILCHMAN:
Jenny Milchman is an award-winning, critically acclaimed novelist from New York State, who lived for 15 months on the road with her family during a book tour. Jenny’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, as well as praise from the New York Times, San Francisco Journal of Books, the AP, and many other publications. Ruin Falls, also an Indie Next Pick, was chosen as a “10 Best of 2014” by Suspense Magazine. Jenny’s third novel, As Night Falls, was selected as an Indie Next Pick and won the Silver Falchion award for Best Novel.